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Personal branding is more powerful than ever

“The exponential rise of influencer culture has shown how powerful having your own audience online can be.”

As the media landscape becomes increasingly unstable and outlets struggle to find viable business models, I predict that more journalists will begin to prioritize their personal brands. Savvy journalists will work to establish strong online identities, grow a large and dedicated followings, and develop custom distribution systems for their work.

The notion of leveraging social platforms to grow a successful personal brand is not wholly new. Journalists like Ezra Klein, Bill Simmons, and Nate Silver all leveraged their personal audiences and large followings to build media empires of their own. But 2019 will show that this next breed of journalist-influencers doesn’t need an audience of millions to obtain a competitive edge.

As a journalist, building a large and loyal following is a critical way to shield yourself from volatility in the industry. Having a tailored audience who is interested in your work is valuable to media companies who have seen previous mechanisms of distribution (like Facebook) evaporate. Building a strong personal connection with your audience is also a hedge against consumers’ growing mistrust of the media. Readers may be broadly skeptical of The New York Times, for instance, but still follow and read particular reporters there who they find credible.

The good news for journalists is that they won’t have to morph into shameless self promoters or tweet incessantly to grow their own audiences. Following this model could mean building a successful newsletter that becomes indispensable to readers (like Casey Newton’s The Interface). Or it could entail creating a successful independent podcast, YouTube channel, or even an Instagram account that extends your brand.

The exponential rise of influencer culture has shown how powerful having your own audience online can be. I predict that in 2019 more journalists will recognize and harness this opportunity.

Taylor Lorenz is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

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